understanding the historical context of a natural remedy
*Blogger's comment: I have tried to capture some of the key elements of this book, however this summary is my collection of thoughts and descriptions as best to my comprehension and knowledge.
Dr. Alice Kuzniar (PhD) presents a thoroughly researched and academic perspective on one of the most controversial therapies in our existence: homeopathy. It is precisely why this book is so fascinating and important to read for anyone interested in healing and philosophy. Homeopathy, as Kuzniar states, "is arguably one of the most important material legacies of that epoch (Romantic era) still with us in the 21st century." How is it that after 200 years, homeopathy is still in existence despite the unusual, scientifically implausible, and mysterious theories such as the minimum dose, the Law of similars, and the single remedy? Who were the contemporaries of Samuel Hahnemann (a German physician and founder of homeopathy), and what opinions, parallels, influences, or oppositions did they share? Without making any claims as to the efficacy of homeopathy, she explores questions to how and why homeopathy came into existence.
She breaks up the read into the basic principles of homeopathy, and eloquently weaves together historical insights, citations, and philosophies from some of the most important scholars and physicians of the 19th century: Hufeland, Goethe (examples from his works Lila and in Faust), Novalis (individualism in sickness, connecting to nature), Ritter, Benjamin (on senses, the unexpected, and similitude), Michel Foucault (Order of things), and comparing and contrasting to other ideas such as Brunonian medicine, that one illness can cancel out another, and other philosophies on disease.
She describes the anamnesis that Hahnemman so distinctively developed, and his journals on materia medica or provings on healthy people that no other physician has ever recorded. She provides arguments as to why homeopathy births out of "empirical Enlightenment" (Hahnemann practiced strict observation) with "romantic conjecture." The ideas and theories that Hahnemann proposed stems from contradicting paradigms that provide the framework for his own idea of treatment. There is no cause, just signs and symptoms, these signs refer to other signs, and the specific set of signs or symptoms are all individual. There could be hierarchy of symptoms (commonly referred to the homeopath as guiding symptoms). She explores the concepts of nature as healer (natura naturans) and the stimulation of the life force, or Lebenskraft (meaning of the term is in her book); illness and other aspects in our environment that are destructive could be opposed.
In reading this manuscript, we can understand Hahnemann's thought and his ingenious development of his healing art. He was against polypharmacy and isolated compounds to treat one symptom at a time. In contrast to the mechanical view of disease, he viewed the body and healing as a whole. What mattered most was the response to the remedy, and he fervently reported detailed symptoms of his patients. And what also mattered is the growth and maturation of the person, along with their illness or disease (my emphasis), the true essence of individuation and self-awareness.
Kuzniar dives into subjects that anyone would be skeptical regarding the practice of homeopathy: the idea of looking and observing for the unique or dissimilar symptoms as the key to the remedy, the extremely diluted remedies (law of minimum), beyond Avogadro's number, and the shaking or potentization of the remedy. Without going into the science, she provides theoretical comparisons based on thought and reasoning of the 19th century, and specifically the beliefs held by physicians of the time on the philosophy of vitalism.
She also provides critics from Hahnemann's theories, and provides some examples of challenge thinking to some of his practices such as self-observation.
It is a beautiful and artistic masterpiece weaving together Romantic thought and magic with a healing art that deserves to be understood from its inception. I have already read it twice, and can imagine I will do so a third time! It is as if every line has been meticulously and carefully crafted, with the utmost attention and care to detail, meaning, and interpretation.
Yes, there are certain "beliefs" when it comes to homeopathy, but the questions raised in Kuzniar book, in my opinion, and through the depth of her writing and research, is not whether we believe in homeopathy and if it works, but whether there are other more deeply held beliefs with respect to nature, life, and our body's capacity to heal and defend itself through an invisible method.
A famous quote by Martha Graham, the pioneer of modern contemporary dance, "There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it."